A History of Burning


India, 1898: Pirbhai is thirteen when he steps into a dhow on the vague promise of work – his family is suffering and he will do anything to help. Forced to labour for the British on the East Africa Railway, he has no money, no voice, no power. Sonal is fierce and loving, always willing to fight for what she believes in. When Pirbhai, weathered from his time on the railway but not broken, walks into her father’s shop, she knows he is part of her future, and together they set out for a new life in Uganda. So begins the story of their family as they scatter across the world, fleeing the brutality of Idi Amin.

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‘Remarkable, haunting, symphonic’ New York Times

Tricked aboard a boat to East Africa, Pirbhai is only thirteen when he is forced by the British into labouring on the railway. Under sweltering heat, hungry and frightened, he commits a terrible act just to survive.

He will never tell a soul, even when he meets Sonal, a fierce, loving woman with whom he starts a family in hope of a better life. But their granddaughters come of age in a divided nation. Latika falls headlong into the student protest movement, Mayuri’s ambitions take her far from home, while Kiya’s friendship with a Black Ugandan boy threatens them both.

Finally forced to flee, the family scatters across the world. They take with them a favourite rolling pin, a handful of photos, and a secret – that one day, will help them find each other again.

‘Vast and intricate, alight with love and contained fury’ Megha Majumdar, author of A Burning